Special Sauce: Nobu Designer David Rockwell on His Tricks of the Trade

20170724-David-Rockwell-Brigitte-Lacombe-©-2014 copy.jpg[Photograph: Brigitte Lacombe © 2014. Ingredients photograph: Vicky Wasik]

When I think of restaurant designers and aesthetic masterminds, the first person who comes to mind is David Rockwell. As an architect, he's designed every Nobu location around the globe, not to mention airline terminals, multiple W Hotels, and the Dolby theater, where the Academy awards are held. He's even won a Tony for designing the set of the musical She Loves Me. So when I decided I wanted to devote a couple of episodes of Special Sauce to visual thinking, I immediately emailed David. Our resulting exchange has resulted in two thought-provoking podcast episodes that I'm thrilled to share with you.

In this first episode, you'll hear David speak movingly about the origins of his interest in design. "I think design first came into my life as a way to moderate and deal with transitions that were happening to me that I wasn't able to control," he explains. That included the death of his father when he was just two years old, and a somewhat sudden move from the Jersey shore to Guadalajara, Mexico during his teenage years. The result? "I was one of those kids who, we had a garage, and that was my sort of laboratory where we would build spook houses for holiday festivals, or take boxes and make villages."

These early projects were before the dawn of the Legos era, but Rockwell did eventually discover those addictive plastic pieces when he would bring them home for his own son: "When he was seven or eight, I would get these insanely complicated lego sets and my wife would remind me, those lego sets are supposed to be for Sam." How did the move to Mexico kindle his love for restaurants, outdoor plazas, and marketplaces? You're just going to have to listen to find out.

Special Sauce is available on iTunes, Google Play Music, Soundcloud, Player FM, and Stitcher. You can also find the archive of all our episodes here on Serious Eats and on this RSS feed.

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